Early voting in the presidential election begins Thursday, and the ballots cast between now and November 6 stand to play a crucial role in deciding the election.
As the Associated Press notes, President Obama has incorporated a call to vote early into his stump speech. His campaign organizers know that his margin of victory in 2008 relied heavily on early votes in swing states such as Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa.
"…In Iowa, you don't have to wait till November 6 to vote. You can be among the very first to vote in this election, starting Sept. 27," Obama recently told supporters in Iowa, according to the AP.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is also looking for early votes, but many Republicans are nervous. Early voting has favored Democrats and often draws heavily from certain Democratic-leaning blocs, including African-Americans who have almost entirely backed Obama.
As the AP reports, Republican legislatures in Florida and Ohio have already tried to limit early voting. The last Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, would have carried Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and Iowa if election-day votes alone decided the election, but Obama won those states with a huge early-vote advantage.
Latinos haven't played as much of a role in early voting, but they stand to play a key role in swing states, and campaigns to register and encourage Latinos to vote -- either at the polls or by mail -- are underway. Latino advocacy organization National Council of La Raza is working on a campaign to not only register voters, but encourage them to actively participate in the political process.
"We want people to vote where it's convenient to them," Julian Teixeira, a spokesman for the National Council of La Raza, said. "But it's one of the reasons we're working on making sure the voter restriction laws are not in place, because they would deter people from voting early."
Political ads and pleas for campaign donations are already high. Both campaigns recognize that people will be choosing a candidate and casting ballots from September through November, and the battle for votes is in full swing.
Some states have sought to implement voter identification laws that would require people casting ballots to present a photo ID at the polls. A judge recently refused to halt such a law in Pennsylvania, which has sparked an outcry among Latino groups who say it unfairly burdens minorities and the poor who may lack the necessary documentation and resources to get an acceptable ID.
Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, told Univision News at the time that, “A lot of folks wonder, ‘Does my vote really matter?’ but there wouldn’t be this huge effort to make it more difficult to vote if it didn’t matter."